During PRSM2013 National Conference Greg Fasullo of EnTouch Controls shared the latest trends with me on cloud-based Energy Management Systems. Here is a recap.
Retail facilities management teams are facing dramatic changes to the way they manage their stores. According to PRSM Association’s recent Trends Report, “the pace of change and innovation within the industry continues at a rapid pace.”
One challenge has been providing advanced services in a system that is sized and priced for use throughout the retail industry. Now, with cloud computing, Energy Management Systems (EMS) are available with costs that start at about $1,000 and require no additional IT systems.
A cloud-based EMS can monitor real-time energy usage and continually monitor systems for performance issues. Systems include wireless sensors and power monitors located in a facility with a controller that can be monitored and adjusted onsite or remotely through a web interface.
A side benefit is that these systems can alert facility managers to abnormal power consumption by HVAC and other systems that could signal an impending failure.
Even with the massive change, one thing is constant – customer comfort is still critical. A cloud-based EMS can help maintain store comfort while lowering costs and allowing for remote monitoring and control.
Share your experiences with the EMS system used to manage your store environments.
I am curious to know if the "cloud" infrastructure eliminates the issue of accessibility without compromising security? EMS systems are invaluable but can be inhibited by an organizations fear of access to their intellectual property. Providing a third party service provider access to your VPN or Virtual Private Network you enable monitoring and controlling of systems remotely which is a huge cost savings, however, the potential threat to an organizations information technology usually wins. Also, to my knowledge the organizations local area network is key to the success of cloud systems. I must say that EMS systems are the cherry on top. I adored the ability to monitor 75 retail grocery stores at 115K SQ FT average with refrigeration galore remotely on an Easter Sunday! Virtual elimination of unnecessary overtime service - Yay.
- Accessibility VS Security
I would like to know if the cloud based infrastructure eliminates the security risk inherent with systems which require VPN Virtual Private Network access for remote access?? If a third party service provider has the ability to access your EMS system remotely, they can determine first hand the priority of a system fault and potentially bypass a failed component to keep you up and running. As an employee on call with a large retail grocery chain; I had access to monitor 75 locations at 115K sq. ft. avg. Having the ability to determine the severity of a refrigeration system failure on an Easter Sunday is invaluable. My organization would not provide our third party service providers remote (VPN) access to our EMS system due to concerns about the security of our intellectual property. This eliminated the potential cost savings from remote resolution, reduction of service calls, and potential for elimination of overtime calls through temporary bypass/programming modifications.
- Accessibility VS Security
Interesting, but would have to look at total cost with all the wireless components. Also getting IT's buy-in might be a challenge!
A cloud-based energy management system can provide a way to generate and keep detailed trend and history data and reports without having to purchase/create IT infrastructure in-house to save that data. This can be an extremely economical vehicle to get "eyes" on the building systems, even very small offices/tenant spaces (that previously couldn't afford a system).
Most important, as Brian initially mentioned, is "automatic alerts". Having your energy management system contact you to let you know when something is "abnormal" gets you into corrective action before it turns into a real problem.
But, as Kevin stated, most IT departments are extremely wary of anything connected to their networks, especially if there's a need to communicate out on the web. And for the customer/user, a secure network system is vitally important.
Most cloud-based energy management systems have evolved with very restricted and secure communication, and getting the proper protocol information to the IT department is the 1st step to getting their buy-in.
I have serviced HVACR for over 40 years and 18 of those years with Caldor Stores (a New England based discount store operation.) We used an energy management system to control lighting, HVAC operation etc... for all our 250+ stores.
EMS systems work great as long as your mechanical systems are working great.
For some reason and I don't know why other than there may be a few dollars saved some retail companies decide to not change their air filter as often as they normally did, or they will go to using a fiberglass (cheaper 30 day) filter instead of the pleated or polyester type which have a larger filter service.
Granted any filter does not remove ALL dirt particles and what it doesn't remove has the ability to go through to the coil, fan, ducts and into the store, office, bathrooms and break areas everywhere the space is conditioned.
Over a period of time this dust and dirt build up starts to cause lower air flow and now your problems start to begin. Expensive repairs are beginning to start.
restrictions cause different operating refrigerant pressures. When the pressure increases, the compressor works harder and pulls more amperage which now cost more to operate and starts to reduce the life expectancy of the system. EMS is not going to see this problem until the temperatures raise to a point where the system is not cooling or heating properly and a service call is then placed for them to check it.
I have seen this first hand what happens when cost cuts are needed. Caldor decided to do the same thing. Initally we were changing the filters every 2 months (6 times a annually) then someone had the idea to cut the filter change to 4 times a year (again to save money.) Then the following year we went to 3 times annually (still saving more money.) It took time (approx 3 years) going from 6 filter changes to 3 changes but the problems were starting to show on the maintenance side with more repairs needed. We had steady service issues and EMS was keeping very busy with calls.
After going to three filter changes it got to the point where somone had suggested a tech vacuum the filters instead of changing them in order to skip a year and save more money.
Let me tell you one of your cheapest investments for energy savings is changing the air filters more often, and inspecting the equipment more often. It is going to cost but in the long run retail is going to save some operating expense.
Clean air keeps dust and dirt from building up on clothes racks, return grilles, dirt on the ceilings around supply registers and ceiling tiles and the entire interior of the store.
GOOD MAINTENANCE IS THE KEY TO ENERGY SAVINGS ALONG WITH MONITORING THE MECHANICALS.
I couldn't agree with Arthur more!. Proper maintenance of equipment is vital.
An EMS properly monitoring the equipment and actually doing something with that information is the key.
An EMS can monitor Filter condition (pressure difference), but if no one looks at that information or does anything with it, it's a waste.
We have great technology available with EMS, but it needs to be actually used and intelligently.